Five Succinct Questions With Kevin Brooks – CEO, Conception Nurseries
Please tell me about yourself. Why cannabis instead of a traditional job? What did you do before you entered the cannabis industry?
About myself, I’d have to start by saying I question everything. Though I started my career in Silicon Valley, which has been coined as the ‘great disruptor,’ after over a decade in the rat race (and a few successful exits), it became clear that I absolutely hated everything about tech. The thought of flying across the country to meet another CTO to sell them some widget to help make their widget run slightly faster was mind-numbing and would eventually lead me to a slow and miserable death.
I realized it was time for a drastic reset, and I refocused, recognizing many of my lifelong friends participated in the legacy cannabis market. I admired how many hats they wore — and that the ‘risk mitigation’ they managed daily had actual consequences outside of a spreadsheet. That lit a fire and inspired me to walk away from a company and industry that I helped build and parlay my skills into this rapidly changing arena.
I’ve always had a relationship with the plant and, at the time, was excited about all the progress the industry was making (Colorado had just passed adult use, Oregon and Washington were right behind). I looked to make my first (legal) investment in the space and met up with some guys I knew from school who, at the time, had a couple of dispensaries and a small grow. That meeting changed my life and resulted in me taking a role as CEO of a company that turned into one of the most well-known premium brands in cannabis – and the first brand to scale retail across the state.
Where are you from? Where were you when you first tried cannabis? What were you doing? Do you remember who you were with?
I’m originally from San Diego but grew up mostly with my younger brother and dad (who still drives his 68 VW Bus) in Long Beach. You can’t be from a beach community and not have a love for good weed. It’s one of those things that’s hard to understand if you haven’t lived in a beach community, but it’s ingrained in the culture and way of life. The first time I smoked cannabis, I was just a kid running around in the back alleys of Belmont Shores, 2nd street. The crew I hung out with at that time were all original Long Beach kids who lived on beaches, docks, and LB streets. Funny enough, my first suspension in high school was over a High Times magazine (we didn’t have Skunk in the mid-90s) during the designated ‘sustained silent reading’ period. When they called my dad, he was just happy I was reading, regardless of what it was. Having gone to the same high schools as Snoop and Sublime (although I was several years younger) deeply influenced the music we listened to and the weed we smoked. At the time, we smoked whatever we could get our hands on. That said, when we came across Chronic or White Widow, it was a big deal.
Please tell me about your company? What do you do better (at least more agile) than your peers in weed? What are your six and twelve-month goals?
Let me preface with a brief history of why I started Conception Nurseries. During my time as CEO at my last company in the space, there wasn’t a single instance I can recall where our cultivation team hit our pro forma numbers. Digging in deep to solve this, I recognized potentially one or more company-ending problems were directly traced back to challenges with our mom rooms. Besides being a tremendous cost center (specialty equipment and nutrients, low-return real estate), they were riddled with massive risk (most pests and pathogens start with the mom room) and limited a grower’s ability to scale up/down to meet consumer demands.
We launched Conception with the idea that 100% gen zero tissue culture clones will outperform clones from traditional nurseries and ultimately considerably de-risk grows. Our goal has always been to provide a better plant with the highest level of customer service at a price point that clearly demonstrates a favorable ROI. Tissue culture as a business is not new. It’s been utilized in traditional agriculture for over six decades — if you enjoy juicy red strawberries year-round from your local store, know that tissue culture made that possible. We refer to our TrueClonesTM as ‘Gen Zero’ — in that the originating plant’s cells are carefully cleaned in a lab and become the basis for the healthy plantlets. We have rigorous testing assays in our facility to make sure we are consistently testing for any variable mother nature may throw at us. There are no moms or outside plant materials in our facility. What this means is that to the best of our knowledge, we are the only group in cannabis that can guarantee our plants are pest and disease-free.
In terms of growth, we currently operate in California and Oregon. Over the next 6 to 12 months, we expect to continue introducing new genetics from top breeders, offering additional plant cleaning services, providing long-term storage options, and expanding our footprint across the US.
What kind of food is your favorite when you are enjoying cannabis? Do you have a favorite restaurant in the world? What is it/where?
I spent six wild years in Chico, California, and had some of the most unforgettable 2 a.m. burritos at Taco De Acapulco (unfortunately, they are no longer around). Today, I’m a little more health-conscious and try to stay away from eating a week’s worth of calories in a single meal. Several years ago, I got involved in a brewery/restaurant called Out of Bounds Craft Kitchen and Biergarten. Whenever I’m in the Folsom area, I have to have the Brie Burger. There is something about the apple, fig jam, brie, and a short rib burger that is irresistible.
What is your passion?
I’m an entrepreneur at heart and have incredible respect for questioning any iteration of the status quo. If I’m not hanging with my family, I’m shoulder to shoulder with my customers and team working to understand where the market is headed. More than anything, I love being with the team and in the field with our customers – solving problems and making things as easy as possible in a complicated space. Despite all the hurdles, roadblocks, and challenges this industry throws at us, it’s great to see how we all adapt and pivot, grit over quit. My passion is for all it, the good, the bad, and the ugly (except 280e, f-that 280e).
Warren Bobrow has been a dishwasher, the owner of the first company to make fresh pasta in South Carolina , a television engineer and he even worked at Danceteria in NYC, then a trained chef which led to a twenty year career in private banking. A cannabis, wine and travel aficionado, Warren is a former rum judge and craft spirits national brand ambassador. He works full time in the cannabis business as an alchemist/journalist. Cocktailwhisperer.com Drinkklaus.com Instagram: warrenbobrow http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Bobrow